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Melissa A. Featherston

Understanding types of child custody in Missouri

Child custody is actually more complex than simply determining where a child will live after a divorce. Missouri parents can be awarded different types of custody, and it is important to understand the differences when navigating divorce negotiations. A parent can be awarded sole physical or legal custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or a third party could be granted child custody

If a parent is awarded sole physical custody, this implies that the child will live solely with that parent. Sole legal custody implies that only one parent has the legal authority to made decisions for the child pertaining to medical needs, education and important issues. Parents have the right to petition for sole physical and/or legal custody of their children. 

Joint legal custody indicates that both parents will share the responsibility for making important decisions in their child's life. Similarly, with joint physical custody, parents will share a significant portion of parenting time. However, this does not mean that parents will necessarily have equal parenting time. While sharing custody is not possible for every Missouri family, children certainly benefit when both parents play significant roles in their lives. 

Parents can work together on a parenting arrangement that reflects their unique needs, which can include a combination of child custody types. When parents are unable to resolve divorce issues without litigation, a family court will determine what is in the interests of the children. Having a strong legal ally is an important part of working through divorce issues, as parents will likely find it easier to navigate the complex legal processes with knowledgeable guides at their sides. 

Source: mo.gov, "Missouri Revised Statutes", Accessed on April 13, 2015

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